Lessons for Lockdown from Cross-Cultural work

Cross-Cultural Awareness - Bocconi Alumni Community

This guest blog post is from Eddie Arthur

In the late 1980s, Sue and I, with our two small boys, found ourselves living in the village of Gouabafla deep in the West African rainforest. We were there to help the local church translate the New Testament into the Kouya language, but before we could think about any ministry, we had to work out how to survive. We were in an entirely new situation, we didn’t know anyone and we didn’t speak the language, though we could communicate with a few people in French.

In some ways, the situation that we found ourselves in as we set off on our adventure as Bible translators is analogous to where we find ourselves today as we explore life and ministry in lockdown. It’s true that we don’t have to learn a new language today and that we are not surrounded by strangers, but we do have to learn how to live in community and to play our role in God’s mission in a very different cultural context to the one that we’ve known up till now. I believe that the lessons that cross-cultural missionaries have learned (and some of the mistakes that they have made) can help us as we navigate this new situation and I’d like to share a few ideas that may (or may not) be helpful.

Be Proactive

Going out to Ivory Coast was a proactive step; we’d spent three and a half years in training and preparation, but that was only the start. We were there to translate the Scriptures for a group with a very small, first-generation church. A British family moving into an isolated village was a bit of novelty and for a while, we functioned as something a tourist attraction, with villagers bringing friends to look at us and to talk about our strange habits. However, it soon became obvious that if we wanted to get to know people, both Christians and the wider community, we would have to go and meet them.

Each evening, when people were returning from the fields, we would walk round the village, greeting people, sitting around their cooking fires, chatting to them in our limited Kouya and slowly, oh so slowly, building relationships and friendships. There is nothing quite so embarrassing for an adult as to wander round an African village forcing yourself to speak a language that you barely get by in and knowing that people are laughing at all of your mistakes. It was humiliating; however we could never have built the relationships that were necessary or learned enough of the Kouya language and culture without those daily forays into the village. We didn’t need to do that stuff at home, but we did in our new culture.

Likewise, in the new digital, world of the Covid pandemic, we need to be much more proactive in making contacts and building relationships than we ever were in the old world (and we needed to be more proactive there than most of us realised. It is important that we reach out to people, to spend time with them and to maintain relationships even through the strange, liminal existence of lockdown and beyond. In this strange world, we won’t just bump into people at work, at church or on the street. If we are to make and maintain contacts, we have to work at it. This will mean being proactive about inviting people for a Zoom coffee, a WhatsApp glass of wine or a socially distanced walk in the park. This doesn’t come natural to many of us and for those who, like me, are introverts, organising a meeting with friends can be very stressful, but we need to take the first steps.

One of the great things about the current situation (if I can put it that way) is that many people are crying out for contact and an invitation to meet friends, even if it is only via a screen is likely to meet a deep-seated need. In reality, we have more opportunities today to spend time with friends – than most of us have had for years. But those opportunities only exist if we are proactive and take them up. This leads to a related lesson.

Do what you can when you can

It would be years before we had learned enough about the Kouya language and culture to take an active part in the Bible translation project. However, we were able to start serving the Kouya community right from the start of our time there. From the very first week, I found myself being called on to preach. I would speak in French with translation into Kouya. We also spent time providing some basic first-aid services to people. We made tons of mistakes and we got things wrong, but we served people and we started to build relationships.

Don’t feel that you have to wait until you have mastered some of the video technology or you have a good reason to call a friend, reach out to them and meet up online even if you don’t have a lot to say. Oh, and if you find video calls difficult, the telephone still works and it is fine just to chat. You wouldn’t expect to share everything you believe with your friends every time you meet for a drink, so don’t feel under pressure to do that when you meet online – but take the opportunities that come when they come. Listen and Learn.

We made some huge mistakes in our early days in Kouyaland. We had our share of embarrassing linguistic faux pas, but we also seriously offended some people because we acted according to British culture, rather than the Kouya one. At times we came across as extremely unkind and unfriendly, even though that was far from our intention. It was really important to have good Kouya friends and confidents who could explain to us what we had done wrong and why it was offensive.

The same sort of thing can occur in online interactions. We don’t get the same feedback on screen as we do face-to-face and we can easy give a false impression if we are not careful. This is particularly important for those who are leading online church services. Even if services are broadcast on Zoom rather than streamed via YouTube, there is very little direct feedback from the online congregation. This means that you have no idea how well you are communicating or to what extent the congregation are engaging with what you are saying. Little things can make a big difference; Christian jargon which seems just about OK in the context of a normal service, can seem completely weird online.

Pull together a small group of trusted friends who will give you honest, regular feedback on how you are coming across and take their input seriously. Be Gracious In the new Culture. For the first few years living among the Kouya, we felt constantly on edge. Generally, it wasn’t the big issues that really troubled us, it was little things that got right under our skin. If you help a Kouya person or give something to them, they are unlikely to say thank you immediately. I understood that, I knew what was happening, but I had to struggle to stop myself from getting irritated whenever this happened because my inbuilt expectation is that if you help someone, they will thank you.

What the Kouya do, is to bring a delegation to your house at dawn the next day and they thank you en masse for your help. To be honest, being confronted by a large group of grateful people before I’ve had my morning coffee is not my favourite thing. Kouya culture expresses gratitude in a different, but more expressive fashion than my British culture – but that didn’t stop me getting irritated twice! It wasn’t enough to know what was happening, I had to self-consciously deal with my emotions and my reaction. Eventually, this self-discipline transitioned to appreciation (though I never actually enjoyed being woken up first thing).

In this new culture, where most people are already dealing with a heightened level of chronic stress, impatience and frustration are part and parcel of our experience of community. It is impossible to do something that will please everyone all of the time and all of us will go through periods of culture shock. Be patient with one another. Recognise what people are aiming to achieve and the constraints that they are living with and cut them a bit of slack if what they do frustrates you. I kept a diary of our very first encounter with the Kouya which is available here if you are interested.

Eddie Arthur

I’ve worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators since the mid 1980s. During that time, I’ve been part of a translation team in Ivory Coast and served in a variety of training and leadership roles in Africa and Europe; including a stint as CEO of Wycliffe in the UK.

These days, I spend my time researching and writing about mission agencies and mission theology. I believe passionately, that the British church needs to re-evaluate the way in which it goes about world mission if it is to be relevant in the 21st Century.

Marriage in Lockdown

Divorce inquiries have increased during the UK lockdown

This guest post is by Paul Allcock

As we approach our golden wedding in a few months time you could be tempted to think that we have learned everything there is to know about one another. Di and I continue to enjoy and thank God for the adventure of married life and for His faithfulness to us but this unexpected phase in our lives has again presented us with challenges. Like every other couple we are frequently reminded that there is a long way to go in building the perfect relationship.

One of the features of ‘life in lockdown’ for many of us who are married is that we have spent much more time together and have had far, far fewer interactions with people face to face than normal – our spheres of social engagement have been narrowed down to those in our own homes.  I wonder if, for you, this has been a wonderful opportunity to grow and develop in the intimacy of your marriage or a significant challenge to survive the ongoing sameness of one day after another without becoming disillusioned and dispirited.  Perhaps you have experienced both things and found it hard to work out why.

Our conviction, as Christians, is that the primary focus of our marriage is to honour God and to seek to reflect His love to the world around us. Normally we think of this to a large extent in terms of how our marriage models God’s love to those around us but being locked down has challenged us to reflect on how our marriage can honour God when no one else sees it! In fact of course, just as with our individual lives, what matters to God is not what our marriage looks like from the outside but what is truly going on in our hearts.

In this strange period we have found that one day can feel very different to another – even when every day is pretty similar in structure and content. We seem to feel more tired when we haven’t really done as much as usual, we go from being chilled and relaxed, to grumpy and critical with one another in a very short space of time.  What lessons is God wanting us to learn within our marriages in these days?

As the weeks roll past what can help us to keep our marriages fresh and joy-filled? What might it mean for us to cherish one another well so that we flourish rather than just survive? The danger of having more time together is that we become careless with each other, that life becomes stale and boring. Here are a few practical suggestions which it could be worth exploring:

  • Plan to set aside specific times as Marriage time/date nights – do something special, dress up for each other, enjoy a nice meal – or whatever you both enjoy
  • Be realistic in your expectations of what you will achieve each day – and celebrate small successes
  • Check in regularly with your partner about how they are feeling
  • Surprise your spouse with words of love, acts of kindness, unexpected gifts – especially thinking about their preferred love language
  • Be quick to ask for and to offer forgiveness when you hurt one another
  • Give each other enough space
  • Pray together
  • Make use of online resources and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help

There are many different resources, we have tried out and looked at several – here are a few we recommend.

  • The Marriage course with Nicky and Cilla Lee is available here
  • Care for the Family have put together four sessions ‘The Marriage sessions’ found on their website
  • Globe Church, London offers three sessions based on the book of Philippians with the title Marriage  Matters – find it here

Locally,  here in Southampton, Family Trust is a great organisation offering support in marriage and family life, their website gives details of resources, contact agencies for those seeking help and a range of other services.

Paul Allcock

Paul is married to Di, they have three sons, two daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren. Paul spent the first two thirds of his working life in education – mainly teaching science, and then he was asked to join the staff of Above Bar Church where he worked for the last third – working as one of the ministers, overseeing pastoral care and home groups. After retiring in 2013 he and Di moved to work with AIM in Uganda for two years since returning to the UK they have been very involved in the marriage ministry at ABC and Paul was the director of Formation School for three years until last summer.

Community in a Crisis survey

Online Church experience Survey in English.

Community in a Crisis is an initiative that has been set up as a response to the pandemic. We’re passionate about relational church online. We’ve been helping churches get set up online through events, blog posts and training videos. We would like to find out what the experience of online church has been across Europe so are conducting a study starting on May 31st.

Church online experience survey

What has your experience of church in lockdown been? We’d love to hear from you, whether during this time you joined church for the first time, or whether you’re a regular attender or church leader. Our survey will be shared across Europe and our hope is that we can learn lessons from lockdown that will shape the future of the church.

The survey is anonymous and the data will not be shared beyond the Survey team.  Survey results will be published only in aggregated form where individual respondents cannot be identified. The purpose of the survey is to help churches understand how they can best serve their congregations and visitors. It is anticipated that, in some countries, restrictions may persist for some time. These insights will also help church leaders to make decisions about routes out of lockdown which will best serve the needs of their congregations and visitor as restrictions are partially lifted. The survey has been translated into many languages so that we get a whole picture of what is happening across Europe.  

Albanian

Bulgarian

Croatian

Czech

Danish

Dutch

English

French

German

Greek

Hungarian

Italian

Latvian

Norwegian

Polish

Romanian

Russian

Serbian

Swedish

Links to publicity in different languages.

Translations coming soon Maltese, Portuguese and Ukranian.

The survey team are:

Nay Dawson

Nay has been a staff worker, Team leader with UCCF and co-ordinated the Science Leadership Network, she now works for IFES as the Regional Training Co-ordinator setting up a network of Seeker Bible study trainers across Europe. Together with her husband they wrote Uncover Mark and were part of the team that created and launched it. Nay has set up Passion for Evangelism a network of female public evangelists. In lockdown as a response to churches being closed Nay with a team of friends has set up the initiative Community in a Crisis.

Dr Martine Barons

Dr Martine J Barons is the Director of the Applied Statistics & Risk Unit and the University of Warwick, UK and vice chair of the Christian Postgraduate and Staff Network, Warwick. Martine started her career in accountancy and after 20 year full time at home bringing up her family, she took a degree, Masters and PhD in mathematical sciences. Martine’s key research interest is quantitative decision support for decision-making under uncertainty and she has published  research on health, food security, pollination and expert judgement.  Martine has been part of Emmanuel Church, Leamington Spa since 1986.

Supported by

Jo Rogers

Arie De Pater from European Evangelical Alliance

Press release

Protestante Digital

Evangelico Digital

Evangelical Focus

A really big thank you to our translators

Igors Rautmanis

Morten Birkmose

Eirini Panteliou

karolina van Wijk

Li Bell

Cat Senior

Beata Szrejder

Janka Sotáková

Birthe Birkbak Hovaldt

Ela Magda Džafić

Veronika Hylánová

Tim and Nicky Sandell

Rebecca Davies

Redona Pjeçi

Heledd Job

Neeman Melamed

Andrea Storhaug

Gunn Elin Vage

Ela Magda Džafić

Lucy Higson

Rachel Wadhawan

Gergely Pasztor Kicsi

Alan Andrioni Fernandes

Roberta Grixti

Bianca A. Dia

Andru Modol

Raluca Arba

Raquel Medina

5 Reasons Why We May Struggle To Exit Lockdown and How The Church Can Respond

Michael Gove: "“Areas of hospitality will be among the last to ...

This guest blog is from John Greenall

Whilst many seem to think lockdown is over, many others are still at home not venturing out. Fear is palpable. On my neighbourhood WhatsApp group Jim at Number 28 shares a post saying that ambulances are scarce, and children are dying in large numbers.

Am I the only one who thinks that many will struggle to exit lockdown? After all, many are speaking of not emerging until ‘all risks are eliminated’. Why is this the case when the same people have driven a car, smoked cigarettes and visited unwell relatives in hospital before now? Why are we evaluating risk the way we do?

Here’s five possible reasons and how the church might consider responding to them.

1. Uncertainty

There’s no doubt the coronavirus is more virulent than common flu but it is still an unknown quantity. We are used to knowing (or at least thinking we do) somewhat predictable risks for various activities. Equally we often feel we can control our exposure to such risks. Coronavirus is, at least for now, a different beast.

As Christians however this isn’t new. We should know that we are not and never have been in control of our lives. Voices of Christians in the two-third world have been telling us this for generations. We are to point to the sovereignty of God who works all things together for good for those who love him.


2. Fear

‘Stay At Home, Stay Safe’. While the words in that slogan convey comfort to my anxious soul, why is it that I also find them ever so slightly insidious? Perhaps because I know that emotional tactics are powerful and effective, but also often unwieldly and they may come at a cost.

And yet employing fear to coerce behaviour is not always a bad thing. People take their medicine when they fear the consequences of not taking it. When a parent I speak with understands that their child could get seriously unwell without their inhaler, they are more likely to administer the correct dose at the correct time.

In church I wonder whether in our gospel presentation we have forgotten the positive power of fear. Do we go straight to the prescription of Jesus’ saving love or do we adequately portray the risks of our sin and rebellion? Unless we take the time to do this often-uncomfortable work, people will have no idea what they need to be saved from. A fear of God’s holiness and the consequences of sin are integral to scripture and a vital part of our message. Let’s preach the whole gospel and not shy away from an appropriate fear of God.


3. Social conformity

In our narcissistic culture we always need to be seen to do the right thing. People fear stepping out of line and being tutted by neighbours or socially distanced on Facebook more than the reward of freedom.

In our narcissistic culture we always need to be seen to do the right thing. People fear stepping out of line and being tutted by neighbours or socially distanced on Facebook more than the reward of freedom.

Again, in our living out the gospel we need to acknowledge the healthy elements of conformity. Habit and group behaviour are helpful in leading us to God and training our hearts. And yet we must teach and live out the truth that God’s verdict on us is more important than the verdict of man. We must resist the pride and comparison that makes it all about us rather than all about God.


4. Safetyism

Our culture is the ideal breeding ground for a generation who are told that ‘being safe’ is the ultimate value in life. And yet a truism of real life is that it can’t be safe. We can’t be 100% sure schools or workplaces or supermarkets are safe. We never have been anyway.

As Christians we need to boldly and compassionately spell out that true safety is an illusion. As Christians we are safe both in life and in death. This is good news! Secularism in its immanent frame has no answer to compete. So let’s be confident in declaring this antidote to fear.


5. A love of captivity

History tells how whole populations have run to big governments to shield them from external menace and accepted horrendous consequences in return. The comfort and predictability of what ‘is’ can outweigh the unknown of what ‘could be’. We are primed – spiritually I believe – to run to captivity rather than freedom.

In our churches we need to preach the whole gospel. We were created by God free to love and obey him. And yet in the fall we choose captivity in the name of freedom because we prefer to be the God of our own lives whatever the cost. True freedom is found in trusting in the perfect life Jesus lived for us and the punishment he took on our behalf in his death.

In conclusion, the Christian faith equips us for uncertain times. We should respect those who are genuinely at high risk. We should love our neighbours by not exposing them to unnecessary risk. We must value every life as precious and vigorously protect and advocate for the vulnerable. And as a church we should have the confidence to confront the idols of our culture and proclaim the true freedom we have in Christ.

In conclusion, the Christian faith equips us for uncertain times. We should respect those who are genuinely at high risk. We should love our neighbours by not exposing them to unnecessary risk. We must value every life as precious and vigorously protect and advocate for the vulnerable. And as a church we should have the confidence to confront the idols of our culture and proclaim the true freedom we have in Christ.

John Greenall

John married to Heidi and has 3 kids. He lives in Luton, loves sport and since lockdown has been getting into Zwifting with his friends on his bike (look it up 😊). John works for the Christian Medical Fellowship as Associate CEO and is a Paediatrician in Bedfordshire. He loves anything to do with global mission, leadership and developing teams and has a passion for multiplying leaders who live for Jesus in every aspect of their lives.

Let us sing

Germany to set out rules for religious services including singing ...

This Guest blog is from Jonty Allcock from The Globe Church

One of the biggest disappointments of online church has been the singing. I hear people say this all the time. We miss being able to sing together. We miss the wonderful encouragement it is to join with others and lift our voices in worship. And if we are honest music online just isn’t the same.  

But can I suggest that perhaps we are being a little defeatist and throwing in the towel too early. Here are three thoughts on singing when we can’t gather physically:  

1) We are commanded to sing 

Psalm 33 starts like this:  

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; 

    it is fitting for the upright to praise him. 

Praise the Lord with the harp; 

    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. 

Sing to him a new song; 

    play skillfully, and shout for joy. 

This is a command. Six times we are commanded to sing and make music. It is the definition of what it means to be righteous. It is the right thing to do. Joyfully, skilfully, loudly. This is what God commands from His people.  

Singing is not something we do because we fee like it. It is a matter of obedience. We don’t sing when it is convenient, or when the technology allows for it, or when we have ‘enough’ people to make singing feel good.  

We sing because God is worthy. Always worthy. Psalm 33 goes on to explain that we sing because of who God is. His perfect character. We praise Him as Creator, Sovereign, the One who chose us as His inheritance, the One who delivers us from death through Jesus.  

I sing as a matter of obedience to Him. God has not become less worthy of worship. He is not less glorious. God is unchanged and therefore the reason that we sing remains unchanged.  

Of course we all like to sing in a big crowd. It is moving and powerful, it is uplifting and stirring. That is all good. But perhaps this current experience is exposing a worrying tendency. Could it be that we are only singing because of the great experience we get? We have become so used to the band and the production that we are losing sight of the One we are commanded to worship. When all of that is stripped away, we wonder, “What is the point of singing if I am just sitting on my own, or with my housemates?”  

What a great question to be forced to ask. What is the point of singing on our own? We weren’t really engaging with that in quite this way three months ago. But maybe the loss of the great worship ‘experience’ will drive us deeper into an understanding of worship. We sing as an act of obedience to the God who is infinitely worthy. Even (perhaps especially) when we can’t gather physically.  

But it is more than just obedience. We also begin to see that… 

2) We need to sing 

As the battle rages – we need to sing more not less. Singing is not just for peacetime, it is for battle too.

If you look back at Psalm 33 you discover that towards the end you read these words:  

We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and shield. (v20) 

You only need a help and shield when you are in trouble. When danger is all around. It is there, in the eye of the storm, that you sing louder.  

We need to wake up and realise that we are not living in a neutral world that is all peaceful and calm. It is a world that is hostile to God. It is a battle ground. There is an enemy who would love us to sing a different song.  

All around us there are lullabies that are calling to us, being sung incessantly until we finally succumb.  

Like the lullabies we sing to children, if you stop and think about the words then it is pretty shocking  (wind blowing, boughs breaking, cradles falling etc). But that is not the point. No, the lullaby is sung until the baby gives up and finally falls asleep.  

All around us the world is singing its lullabies. The words are terrifying if you really stop and think – but that isn’t the point. Everyone is singing it, the tune is relaxing. Follow your heart, pursue your dreams, you can be anything, do whatever you want. Be free. This is the dominant theme tune of our culture.  

 

And this is why we must sing the song that God has given us. He has given us a new song to sing. A better song, a truer song, a more beautiful song. 

If we don’t sing the new song, we won’t sing no song, we will sing another song. 

So let’s not give up on singing at the very moment when we most need it. Let’s engage in battle with a sing on our lips and in our hearts. Just as Jehoshaphat sent the musicians into battle at the head of the army ‘to sing to the LORD’ (2 Chronicles 20) may that same battle cry echo from our mouths in these days:  

Give thanks to the LORD  

For His love endures forever. 

But maybe we might think, but how do we do this in these days of social distancing? We need to be clear that we are commanded to sing, we need to sing and thirdly,   

3) We are able to sing 

I was challenged to start off down this road when I read in Acts 16 of Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi. Here is what we read (and this won’t surprise you by now!) 

About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25 

We may be in lock down – but we are not locked up. There was only two of them and they were singing their hearts out to the Lord. No band, no crowd, no smoke machine. Just their voices. This is the sort of singing that I think we should be going all out for in these days.  

Simple, raw, heartfelt worship.  

You may not have a great voice – you may not be musical – but you can still sing. You may feel self conscious, that is ok. Everyone feels a bit weird when learning to do something in a new way. Push through the weird to the joy. Seriously. When you are watching an online service sing. Stand up. Raise you hands. Kneel down. Whatever helps you focus on what you are doing. Get some words on your phone. Use a YouTube video. Whatever helps you. But find a way to sing.  

And when you don’t want to sing or when you can’t be bothered, then here is a practical suggestion.  

Be honest with God. ‘I don’t want to worship you today.’  

Say sorry to God. ‘I am sorry I don’t want to worship. You are so worthy. My heart is so cold. Please forgive me. 

Ask for the Spirits help. Holy Spirit please help me now. Warm my cold heart. Prepare me for battle. 

Then start to sing. open your mouth and however feebly, or weakly, start to sing. Sing because God commands it. Sing because you need it. Sing because He is always worthy. And maybe you will find the volume increasing.  

Jonty Allcock

The Globe Church | Jonty Allcock

I love Jesus because he first loved me. When I was far away from him, he gave his life to save me. That is a staggering fact that humbles me and at the same time lifts up my head.

My journey began in Southampton. I grew up in a home that was (not perfect but) full of Jesus. I left home to study Chemistry at Oxford and was confronted with a challenging question: Had I been brainwashed, or did I really believe this? It was a struggle. I found university very hard. But as I looked closely into the Bible, I came to the deep conviction that it is true. My experience of living the Christian life has shown me that struggling and growing seem to go hand in hand.

On leaving university, I married Linda, and together we moved to Enfield in North London. For the next seven years, I was involved in and trained in local church ministry. I was then involved in planting a new church in Enfield where I was the pastor for seven years.

I have now moved into Central London (with Linda and my three boys) to continue the journey of faith here. I am far from perfect, but Jesus is a patient and wonderful king. It is my great honour to serve him at The Globe Church.

A meal with Jesus

This guest blog post comes from Dave Bish and the team at Beeston Free Church

When we moved to our church about four years ago my wife and I wanted to attend home group together, and we wanted our kids involved. So we started a new group, at 6pm. A simple but chaotic formula – dinner, washing up, bible and prayer. All done by around 8pm. A meeting isn’t a community, but we at least edged in that direction.

After a while as we added more and more fellow newcomers things got out of hand. We can’t seat and feed over 25 people easily, so we multiplied the group and started again. Persuaded by Tim Chester (A Meal With Jesus), Robert Farrar Capon (The Supper of the Lamb) and Rosaria Butterfield (The Gospel Comes With A House Key) food has been central for us. We took a wall out of our house last summer so we could sit together more easily.

Thursday 12th March was the last time we ate together. As we loaded mugs into the dishwasher and said goodbye we didn’t realise we wouldn’t be doing this the same way anytime soon.


The following week I spent two exhausting evenings on the phone to our group leaders, and we took our groups onto Zoom. Immediately couples with young children who couldn’t both attend started both turning up. Students sent home when the University went online have kept connecting. When this is “over” it’ll change the way we do groups. Why didn’t we realise we could be more inclusive before – of those who don’t feel able to go out in the evening, of the disabled, and others.

True, some haven’t engaged as much, but we’re family and we can follow-up with people. We’ve bailed a couple of times because another Zoom would’ve broken us, and some are Zoomed out after being on it all day at work. But we can make a phonecall, or meet someone for a walk.


Two weeks ago my six year old burst in mid-call. My wife was elsewhere in the house on a different device so we could go into separate breakout rooms. I left to calm him down. Eventually he was able to say he was upset because he was missing home group. We’re sustaining losses, and only beginning to realise what some of those are.

Sometimes conversation is stilted. Sometimes it’s easier. We’ve shared poems and songs as we’ve reached for hope. As five of us discussed the previous Sunday’s sermon on Ecclesiastes 3 I think it was the first time I’d really enjoyed this new way of being. I miss the people. I miss cooking. I’ve no great wisdom on how to do this, but I’m glad we can. I’m glad we’ve read the Bible. I’m glad to pray. We’re still feeding on Jesus, just with less pasta and without that amazing cheesecake one of our members baked. One day we’ll sit round a table again together – with Jesus at his wedding supper for sure, and hopefully before that

SMALL GROUPS ON ZOOM

Expectations

Be realistic, it’s different.

Don’t be discouraged if it’s flat or hard work sometimes.

You don’t have to do everything every week. Can you do a quiz, murder mystery, etc.

Arrivals

Using the Waiting Room allows people to arrive together and not repeat all the same initial conversations. 

Bring a photo or story to share. During the week share an experience, e.g. National Theatre.

If there are more than 3-4 people, mute on arrival. Expect to be invited to speak.

New role: can someone facilitate welcome and catch up chat? Informal chat is harder online so get to breakouts soon. 

Breakout & Bible

Breakouts could be single sex, mixed, random, following friendships. Vary it. 

Nominating someone to lead the breakout conversation can help.

Two questions in a Bible discussion can be enough, and more applied than understanding based questions. Share questions before on WhatsApp. 

To work the Bible text, use Share Screen and Annotate together. 

People need silence to think in person, we need more time online. 

Prayer & Singing

Can you share prayer points beforehand on WhatsApp or in the Zoom chat? 

Can you invite your linked Mission Partner to come?

Share Screen a YouTube song with lyrics and sing together. Unmute near the end. 

Online changes things

90mins in person, 60mins online? 

Be aware of members being Zoomed out from work. 

Sit near the screen so we see your face. 

It can be helpful to Hide Self View so you don’t have to look at yourself. 

Can couples/housemates join on separate devices. They can then join different breakouts and serve the group better.  

Couples with young children or those not comfortable going out in the evening can now attend. Celebrate that. Can we include online in our group after Lockdown?

Gently follow up on those who aren’t Zooming.

Can you have a Coffee on Zoom on Sundays? Or do some members need space to connect with other church members instead?

As lockdown eases, can you safely meet individuals physically. Knock on some doors of group members so you’re not only seeing one another on zoom.


Remember we meet to grow up together in Christ…. “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13

Dave Bish

Dave Bish is fell running secretary of his local running club, lives
on a new build estate with his music teaching wife and three highly
energetic boys, and serves as associate minister at Beeston Free
Church
.

Zoom Prayer meeting

The

Prayer is trending on Google, it seems that in a Crisis the British public are turning to prayer. Some fantastic initiatives have been set up to help remind us to pray. As a church we’re using Unite 714 from Pete Greig. Every day at 7.14am and pm we’re reminded to pray alongside millions others. Its great that individuals are turning to prayer, but can we still gather to pray collectively? Every Wednesday we’ve been meeting at 7am to pray as a church, maybe you’re doing the same. But maybe you’re beginning to consider whether you can do a city wide prayer meeting or one within your network of churches.

Before lockdown I had no experience of running large events online. But since then I’ve helped run three conferences (between 50 and 940 guests) and two large prayer meetings (350 in each). I’m passionate about relational events that are engaging and collaborative. Here’s what one guest said after a recent conference we ran…

“I am thankful  for the “family feel” that was communicated even though we were online! I am glad I was able to take part”

Here are some tips on taking a large prayer meeting online and yet retaining a highly relational feel.

1. Work out what are your vision and values for the event. Why are you gathering? who is this for? Who is this not for? Where will you meet?

2. Build your core team. You’ll need a Tech host (x1) and a project manager.

3. With your core team plan the content of your event. It doesn’t simply work to replicate everything. Read this blog post first then discuss the following; what you want to include in your meeting? Which platform or platforms do you want to use? Once you’ve read this, write a simple running order, here is our example below.

3. Your tech team needs are dependant on your plans for the event. You’ll potentially need Tech host x1 (breakout rooms), Event hosts (x2), Tech co-hosts x3 (roles include; visuals, muting & spotlighting) and a musician for live sung worship.

4. Gather your team together to talk through roles, the draft running order, what works? what doesn’t work?

5. Write a full running order including all the roles for the night, here is a great example from our weekly church service, you can adpat this for your own event.

6. Practise the event – run through the event with everyone practising their roles and now you’re ready to go!

Here are some ideas for collaborative, engaging prayer meetings

1. Encourage everyone to get involved. Use Sli.do to get guests to share ideas, Bible passages, words from God, pictures, encouragements. Here is an example, we asked the question what are your losses in lockdown?

2. Encourage everyone to pray. Padlet can be used as a collaborative interactive prayer board, here is an example from our 24/7 virtual prayer room.

No photo description available.

3. Pray in small groups. Over and over again in lockdown I have heard people say that this is their favourite part of an event. keep the groups small 4-5 is the optimal number for conversation and make them at least 10 minutes long. Many have commented how much they have enjoyed meeting new people in these breakout rooms. The groups can be preassigned or randomly allocated. Read this blog here on how to do them How to use Zoom Breakout rooms in your event

4. Share stories this could be done as short testimonies either live or pre recorded. Keep them short 3-5 minutes maximum. These can help bring in lots of voices and create a sense of togetherness.

Other useful blog posts

Worship tips and tricks on Zoom for tips on live sung worship at events

Zoom bombing – protecting your events from hackers

Sharing videos during your event on Zoom

Kindness matters

person holding child walking on pathway

This guest blog is by Peter Dray

My friend Krish and his wife Miriam are foster parents. Krish tells of how, one day, the phone rang, requesting a placement. “Do you have space for a three-year-old?” they were asked. “Parents have gone AWOL. We don’t know much about him, but apparently he’s a biter. Are you okay with that?” 

On hearing this, Krish winced. Not just at the imagined pain of being bitten – but because of the label placed on the child. A whole life was boiled down to a single negative word: biter.  

This episode encapsulates the harshness typifying aspects of society today. Politicians are judged not on the basis of policy, but on trivia. Celebrities are publicly shamed for their sins. As in the case of the three-year-old boy, one word judgements are issued without any understanding of a person’s broader story. 

Those of us who’ve felt labelled in this way know how devastating it can be upon our mental health. It’s not necessarily that people are saying things that are entirely untrue; it’s that our worst characteristics are being singled out to be the final word.  

Even when these comments are made in jest, they sting. 

Our capacity for this kind of hurt indicates our universal need to know kindness and mercy – to know love, welcome and a future, even when we’ve publicly fallen short. 

My younger son is called Toby, which means ‘The Lord is kind.’ My wife and I chose this name because we’ve come to know exactly this kindness and mercy from the living God revealed by Jesus. Time and again, Jesus refused to treat people by their worst moments or characteristics. Jesus shows that God has a bent towards mercy and kindness. As one of my favourite Bible verses puts it, ‘God does not treat us as our sins deserve.’  

He might have pointed out all of the ways I have fallen short – and left me in my condemnation. Instead, though he knows the cost of my failure better than anyone, he chose to take its consequences upon himself, dying a shameful death my place. 

God chose to show me kindness. He no longer defines me by my worst

Because kindness characterises the heart of God, kindness is written into the fabric of reality. Society thrives when we show one another kindness. Justice must be done, but justice never excuses shaming people because we perceive ugliness in them. One beautiful Bible verse says that love ‘always hopes.’  

Miriam and Krish modelled this in the way they related to their foster child. “I was not OK with looking after a child known as a ‘biter’,” Krish later wrote. “If something so terrible has happened to him that he feels he has no choice but to respond by biting, then I would do everything in my power to look after him and help him lose the label.” Just imagine the effect of this attitude on this child’s perception of his self-worth. 

Knowing the kindness of God also allows us to be kind to ourselves. Lockdown may have shown us new things about ourselves. Many of these new discoveries may not have been pretty. Yet to someone with perfectionist tendencies and who has struggled with body image issues through life like me, God’s kindness allows me to gradually silence the inner critic. I’m accepted, I’m welcomed, I’m loved – at great cost. 

Kindness will be especially important in the coming weeks: as lockdown shortens our fuses, as we make different choices around our children’s education and ‘the new normal’, and as we continue to break our own resolutions for lockdown life.

Our temptation will always be to judge – to write off ourselves and others – but, even when we’re sure we’re our judgement is right, let’s choose instead to extend kindness.  

As we do so, we echo the heart of the living God. 

Peter Dray

Peter Dray is married to Linda and has two sons, Samuel and Toby. They live in Leeds, and watching live sport and getting outside. Peter works for UCCF, the British university Christian Union movement, but is currently on furlough.

Youth and children’s work in COVID19

Community in a Crisis hosted a training event for youth and children’s workers. We had a panel sharing their experience of online church in #COVID19. The panel included; Tamar Pollard from Grace Church, Phil Moore from Cornerstone Nottingham, Katherine Trollope from Above Bar Church Southampton, Liam Brocken from Christchurch Southampton, Jess Ann Jenner Jubilee Church, Naomi Simpson from Lighthouse Southampton, Josh and Hannah Kirby from Reach Puppets, Luke Parker from Christchurch Newcastle.

Can we enjoy ourselves in a Pandemic?

We can't hide from coronavirus for ever' | News | The Times

I’m at home on a warm spring day. I’m sitting in a deck chair on my new fake turf. The paddling pool is set up and the BBQ coals are on. But I’m struggling to enjoy myself. I know I’m not alone in this, many of my friends are asking similar questions. How we can sit and relax at home when so many sad and terrible things are happening beyond my front door?

There are times of joy in our week. We recently hosted a Talent show for 30 families. Each child submitted a video of their talent. During the show I lost myself in the joy of what was happening. Laughing, dancing and chatting. I came off the call, happy and grateful for our community. We finished with a short disco for the kids, singing the words from Dance Monkey.


I said oh my g*d I see you walking by. Take my hands, my dear, and look me in my eyes. Just like a monkey I’ve been dancing my whole life. But you just beg to see me dance just one more time. Dance with me dance with me dance with me oh oh oh…


For a moment I was lost, like a good story, I was taken elsewhere. But like the other times I’ve sung this song in lockdown, as soon as the song finished a pang of guilt hit me. Nay how can you dance when others are working hard on the frontline? How can you enjoy your family when others have lost a family member? The moroseness hit again and I asked myself one more time can we enjoy ourselves in a pandemic? Can we dance and sing when others are just so sad?


As humans we need to sleep and relax, we need to dance and sing and read, for this is part of what make us human. And yet we feel guilty when we do these things. It seems to suggest to me that as humans we need to express our humanity, in order to be ok. But if thats true why do we feel so guilty enjoying ourselves during this time?


CS Lewis wrote a wonderful essay called Learning in War Time. He writes about the validity of study during war. Although we’re not in war, there are many parallels to life in a pandemic. His essay is so helpful and helps us answer this question whether its ok to enjoy ourselves and dance in a pandemic. Two of his points here seem particularly timely.


1. This isn’t new
“The war creates no absolutely new situation, it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been on the edge of the precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself! We are mistaken when we compare war with normal life” Life has never been normal we’ve just forgotten how fragile we are.


2. War is never all about war, even for soldiers
Lewis goes on to say “before he went to the last war, he expected his life in the trenches would be in some mysterious sense, be all of war. In fact the nearer you got to the front line, the less everyone spoke and thought of the allied cause. War doesn’t obliterate the human life, soldiers are still men.” Lewis goes on to say “The war will fail to absorb our whole attention because it is a finite object, and therefore intrinsically unfitted to support the whole attention of the human soul”. Lets remember what it is to be a human today, don’t let the pandemic oliterate the human life.


Later in his essay Lewis asks this very same question that we are asking “How can you be so frivolous and selfish to think of anything but the war”. Lets look again at the essay for some help he talks about three enemies to work, human life and flourishing in the midst of a war. They are excitement, frustration and fear.


Excitement – This is the tendency to think about war when we had intended to think about our work. This is even more possible today. Even before the pandemic many were struggling with an obsession with the news. Leading to an overwhelming, crushing sense. With constant access to news from across the world. Many are now advising that you limit how long you watch the news for. It is certainly easy to constantly watch tv and to become obsessed with the latest stats, curves and deaths. So lets not let excitement become an enemy to human flourishing.


Frustration – The feeling that we won’t have enough time to finish. I certainly feel that every day. Whether that’s work, cleaning the house or home schooling, the days really don’t have enough hours in anymore. Lewis sends another reality check here. He suggests that pretty soon for all of us will come a time when we start saying “no time for that” “too late now”. He suggests though that we commit our futures to God. Happy work is best done by the person who takes their long term plans lightly and works from moment to moment.


Fear – Lewis says “War threatens death and pain”, we certainly see that in this pandemic. He goes on to say “But there is no question of death or life for any of us, only a question of this death or of that. What does war do to death? It doesn’t make it more frequent, but it may quicken when we die….The reason why cancer at 65 or Demensia at 70 don’t bother us is that we forget them”. We forget these awful things until a family member or friend has a diagnosis. Yet war makes death and suffering real to us. The pandemic has made death and suffering real to us. Whether it’s the pop up mortuary 3 miles from my home, the daily count in the news or the fact that death is trending on Google. The pandemic forces us to remember death and pain.


But the stats aren’t just out there. We may have experienced the death of a close friend or family member in lockdown. If not we’ll certainly know someone that has. If we had foolish hopes about human culture, about humanity’s ability to be God they are now shattered. COVID19 is bringing into focus a clarity on who we are and how fragile we are.

In this fragility and time of survival, can we really enjoy ourselves? Can we take time to dance and sing? If the answer is yes, then why do these simple things make me feel guilty? Lets go back to the question of guilt. For me this false guilt reveals that all too often I base who I am upon what I can do.

For me this false guilt reveals that all too often I base who I am upon what I can do.

If I was a frontline worker would I feel better about my existence right now? I’m doing what the government says. I’m staying at Home, I’m caring for my kids. But I don’t feel proud of my contribution to this pandemic if anything I just feel guilty.

At this point I hear God speak. I hear him say, I turned the guilt system on its head. Even if others play this game of making you feel guilty, even if you buy into it temporarily. I want to offer you something different.

There is an offer of a relationship free from guilt. One where the values and relationship are not dependant upon what you can do or who you can be, but the relationship is based on love. By taking up this offer of love as a basis for my life, there is no room for guilt or pride in who we are or what we do. The Apostle John says this in 1 John 3:20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything”.

Its not about how we feel about ourselves or about what we do or don’t do in this pandemic, its about who God is and what he says.

If we understand God for who he really is, then we don’t need to feel guilt when we dance. Here are four reasons not to feel guilt. 1. The guilt system doesn’t work – “feeling guilty” does nothing for anyone. 2. There is one that has offered to remove genuine guilt from us forever. 3. Who we are is not dependant on what we do. 4. We were created to live not just survive.

So in our current existence, which can feel like every day is a Ground Hog day. Lets choose torecieve this offer of a guilt free life and truely live. What song will you sing today? What book will you pick up and enjoy?